President Obama has succeeded in his long twilight struggle to make the “rich” pay more to live in Obama’s America. In defending his call for ever higher taxes, he said, “Let’s get this done so we can move on to fix the economy.” Actually, the fact that he wants to do this is the main reason why the economy needs fixing.
For you class warriors out there who are delighted that the president is finally going to stick it to the “rich” and make them pay their fair share, a cautionary note is in order. What price is too high for “fairness?” What if in the pursuit to level incomes we wind up making everyone poorer?
The economy has barely grown during the Obama years. The recession ended three and a half years ago, yet economic growth has averaged barely 2 percent per year since the beginning of 2010, far short of what is necessary to sustain employment increases and a growing economy. Given the huge downturn in 2008 (not Obama’s fault), you would expect economic growth would have increased sharply, but that has not been the case (Obama’s fault). This is not an academic discussion, but has real world consequences – primarily for the most vulnerable in our society. The president won reelection primarily because voters thought he “understands our problems,” but his stagnant economy is devastating to those who need help most.
Start with young people. Getting that first job and learning practical skills associated with employment is critical to upward mobility and helping young people realize their full potential. Yet three years after this recovery began, a report by the organization Generation Opportunity finds youth unemployment (ages 18-29) at 10.9 percent, or 16 percent if you count young people who have stopped looking for work. It’s not hard to understand why employers are loath to hire young workers who have less experience and generally require more up front training and instruction. A whole generation is being shortchanged in the process, and it is small comfort that ObamaCare permits them to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.
Then there are the stunning poverty numbers. A new report by the Urban Institute is filled with statistics – none of them good. More than one in five children now lives in poverty in America. About 2.7 million more children lived with an unemployed parent during a typical month this year compared with 2007, an increase of 71 percent. In 10 states, the number of children living with unemployed parents increased by at least 100 percent during the same period.
When was the last time this president, who supposedly “understands your problems,” even commented on the worsening poverty in America? When has he been asked about it by a member of the national press corps? The only candidate who addressed the subject at all during the recent presidential election was Republican Paul Ryan, who you may remember, was previously accused of gutting Medicare and throwing senior citizens off a cliff.
Most devastating is this language: “Negative effects on children can persist long after the period of unemployment ends, with effects seen on grade repetition and educational attainment, the child’s aspirations for his or her own future success in the labor market, and the child’s earnings upon reaching adulthood.”
In other words, if you start out behind everyone else, you may never catch up.